WHEN Ms Eileen Tiang was just five years old, she remembers helping to change her baby sister’s dirty nappies when their mother had to go to the market. As the eldest of four children, she was used to taking care of her younger siblings.
This early maternal “training” proved prophetic.
The 32-year-old is now a staff nurse working in the maternity ward at Gleneagles Hospital.
And later this year, she will begin a course that will qualify her to be a midwife.
But nursing wasn’t always her calling. Ms Tiang graduated from King’s College London in 2001 with a bachelor of science in nutrition. For the next four years, she worked as a nutritional analyst at a commercial lab, testing food samples and coming up with nutritional labels for them.
But she found the job monotonous and felt the urge to go into teaching.
“I knew I wanted to teach, but not children,” she said. “I thought it would be great to teach pregnant mothers.”
So she signed up for a childbirth education course in 2004 to pick up skills in areas like gynaecology, physiology and dealing with new mothers.
As part of the course, she practised as a doula or childbirth assistant at several hospitals.
There, she attended to mothers in labour, calming them down and massaging them when required.
She also witnessed her first childbirth – an experience which moved her.
“I just broke out in tears,” recalled Ms Tiang. “But they were joyful tears. It was such a miracle watching it happen.”
From that moment, she knew she wanted tobe a midwife.
The then-assistant director of nursing at the hospital suggested that she get a nursing certificate, as it was necessary to become a nurse before becoming a midwife.
Back to school
Ms Tiang quit her lab job in 2005 and signed up for an accelerated nursing course at Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP), which took her only two years to complete. A normal course usually spans three years.
Her studies were fully sponsored by the Workforce Development Agency (WDA) and Gleneagles Hospital, under the Professional Conversion Programmes.
After graduating in January 2008 with a diploma in nursing (accelerated), she started work at Gleneagles Hospital as a registered nurse.
In pursuit of her dream, Ms Tiang made some sacrifices, like taking a pay cut of a few hundred dollars.
Her decision was also questioned by her loved ones.
“My family wondered why I was moving backwards, getting a diploma instead of my master’s,” she said.
When asked if she had second thoughts, Ms Tiang replied without hesitation: “No, I was adamant. I knew that midwifery was my goal. I just had the passion for it.”
Having a child of her own also reaffirmed her decision.
When Ms Tiang gave birth to her first child last month, she realised the difference a midwife could make.
“I always had an ideal notion of my own childbirth: No pain relief, smooth, natural birth.
“But I was in labour for more than 24 hours, and I was in so much pain I kept thinking: I cannot make it, I’m going to die,” she said.
But her husband and a midwife were there to comfort her.
She said: “I remember them saying: you can do it, you are so great. In the end I just pushedand did it.”
“It’s such an important role. You need those encouraging words and people around to support you,” said Ms Tiang, who is currentlyon maternity leave.
She will be pursuing an advanced diploma for midwifery at NYP come this October. She willbecomea staff midwife after the course.
“Nursing is not an easy job,” she said.
“But I love to help others and it’s a joy to help mothers and work with babies.”
This article was first published in The New Paper.